A fellow attorney (and New Orleanian!) in our community posted the above. She writes that the defining characteristic of a “nasty woman” is that woman’s “lack of interest in validation from men” or anyone else. This is perhaps a big part of it. In Janet Jackson’s iconic video, “Nasty” men play the foil.
Elise mentions, as an example of embodying a “nasty woman,” Hillary Clinton butting heads with men throughout her career…although, admirably, she does not seem perturbed during these interactions and does not appear to be butting heads with anyone. The men, on the other hand, appear to be more and more frustrated with her calm manner as she stands up to them, resolutely, but with little emotion.
Men are often the foil to a woman in power because they’re seen as the oppressor or the roadblock to success/movement forward (I mean, they often hold the keys to power, so it’s easy to see why they’re seen that way). So, in a way, I can see how defining a nasty woman in contrast to the men that stand in her way is a good way to identify these women leaders.
That said, while I absolutely respect her and her opinion, something about the definition just doesn’t sit right with me. There is still, embedded within it, an idea that should women care about their appearance or sexuality, then they are somehow abandoning the feminist cause. It makes sense, of course, to assume that – men/society objectifies women and values them based on their looks.
If a woman, however, wants to use her looks to get ahead in life, then why should the woman be looked down upon for it by other women? If that woman is qualified and can kick ass at the job, is it really their problem if a man is stupid enough to promote or hire someone based on their looks?
What if a woman just LIKES dressing up because of the art or self expression? What if a woman is powerful, intelligent, AND sexual?
If a badass dude is featured in GQ, other men don’t stomp around saying that the man doesn’t deserve his success because he happens to like nice clothes or spends time on his hair.
I think I’m particularly sensitive to this notion because as a person in business with her father, I often get catty comments from men and women my age (not from the older generations, for some reason) suggesting that I was given this opportunity because we’re related. And that I haven’t really accomplished anything of note because well, clearly, if there’s a man involved, they did all the work and I’m just some sort of figurehead. No, you misunderstand. My father didn’t take an unknown, barely formed idea and turn it into a company worthy of international conferences and being published in trade magazines. I did that. Yes, I was specifically presented with this opportunity FIRST because of family, but if it hadn’t been me, then I’m sure he would have approached someone else. And, yes, it’s his experience and expertise that I’m leveraging – but the same can be said of any non-technical co-founder. I’m proud of my accomplishments and I don’t think they should be diminished simply because it was a group effort.
But then, we come back to Elise’s query: how DO we define a nasty woman? Who is our feminist icon? Definitely not a Kardashian (sorry, ladies, but you aren’t exactly the best role models). So, Elise’s definition: Someone who doesn’t care what people think of her when pursuing her goals.
What about, alternatively: A woman who doesn’t allow perceived barriers to stop her from pursuing her goals. Or a woman who doesn’t allow herself to be restricted to the traditional pathways to success.